Voices: How a Great Singer Can Change Your Life – review

Nick Coleman’s analysis of pop’s most thrilling singers brims with joy and well-turned phrases, but doesn’t dig deep enough

What do we want or expect from a voice, someone else’s voice, a stranger’s voice? After nine months of deafness, documented in his 2013 memoir Train in the Night, Nick Coleman realised he only wanted to hear voices that would “nourish and sustain” him. He found nourishment in the heightened naturalism of 60s girl group records, exemplified by the Shangri La’s’ Mary Weiss and the Marvelettes’ Gladys Horton, and in Aretha Franklin, who became a more personal prop for him, offering sisterly advice. Whenever he put a record on, he was always conscious that his hearing might go again, at any moment, and maybe this time it would never return.

This urgency gives Voices a slightly claustrophobic feel. The book covers the rock era, and Coleman has a varied enough ...